Alejandro Martinez Velez

Alejandro Martinez Velez

TIFA 2022 Interview with Alejandro Martinez Velez
Photographer of the Year, 1st Place winner in Editorial, Professional, “Desolation”

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you develop a passion for photography?

Something that influenced me to start taking photos was the Complutense University
of Madrid where I studied Political Science. The students called strikes and demonstrations, so I decided to buy a camera and document the student mobilizations. Later, I photographed evictions in Spain and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to Europe.

Q: Could you provide more details about how you captured this award-winning photograph? What was the main idea behind it, and how did you go about constructing it?

The photographic report ‘Desolation’, made up of nine images, documents the first
weeks of war in Ukraine. All the photos have a story behind them, but I will talk about
the first photo of the series. On March 17, 2022, I went with two photojournalist
colleagues to a destroyed building in a residential neighborhood in Kyiv. When we
arrived we met Oleksandr Shvets, 36, crying next to the lifeless body of his mother, 67- year-old Ukrainian theater actress Oksana Shvets. Mother and son were together at home when the remains of a Russian missile, shot down by the Ukrainian Air Defense, fell into their apartment. Oksana was crushed to death by a wall that collapsed on her.

Q: What does it mean to you to get this award?

It’s a real pleasure for me to have been awarded as “Photographer of the Year” and 1st
Place in Editorial. It is also a great opportunity to show my images and tell the daily
reality that the population lives in Ukraine.

Q: Photography is a great medium for communicating various messages to people. What are your thoughts on this tool and how do you use it?

Of course, photography is a powerful medium for telling stories and documenting the
reality of many people.

Q: What would you say best describes your photography and your style?

I try for my photography to have a clear and simple visual language where the person
and the human elements have the greatest role.

Q: What one thing do you wish you had known before you started taking pictures?

I think that photography and photojournalism is a long way, every day one learns
something new. If I had to choose one or two things that I would have liked to know
before starting, it is how precarious this profession can sometimes be and never
idealize anyone more than necessary.

Q: Could you tell us what photography gear you personally like to use?

For ten years I have used a single camera body and several fixed objective lenses. I’ve
had a Canon 550D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, and a Canon R6. I currently have a Canon 28mm 1.8, Sigma 35mm 1.4, Sigma 50mm 1.4 and Canon 70-200mm F4.

Q: What would you say are some essential tools for new photographers?

When you start taking photos the most important thing is not to worry about having
an expensive camera. Any reflex or mirrorless camera is ideal for taking pictures today. They have great image quality. The best tool you can use is to see a lot of photography to learn.

Q: Whose work has had the greatest impact on you?

I have always liked two photographers especially. I consider that they are two masters. James Nachtwey and Josef Koudelka. However, the photographers who have influenced me the most are my closest colleagues, from whom I have learned a lot.

Q: What are your future plans? Do you have any exciting projects going on right now that you could tell us about?

During this year I will continue working on my daily job, covering the daily news in Madrid for a Spanish press agency. In case any international news happens, I will try to document it. I would also like to return to Ukraine.

Q: If you had limitless funds for a dream project, what would you do?

I would love to tour the African continent or South America with my camera. I hope it
comes true.